A while back, the American Cancer Society (ACS) published a report indicating that screening for cancer using prostate-specific antigen (PSA) was of little value. The examination which is quite common either fails to detect the cancer or subjects people who aren’t under any risk to side effects.
The report seems to follow suit on an earlier report that was published by the European Association of Urology, where several men were monitored over a period of 20 years. At the end of the experiment, it was discovered that only 189 out of 6822 men got the cancer. Of this number only 19 got metastases while only 40 died. This represents a small fraction compared to the side effects of the screening.
The study from the ACS suggests that the risk of experiencing adverse effects which constitute of incontinence, impotence, and other isn’t worth it. Patients also end up spending lots of time and cost of tests that will add little or no value to their lives. Though it won’t show the disease, a person may get it in the near future. The number of men who die from other causes is way greater than prostate cancer.
According to Ahmedin Jemal, researcher and lead author at ACS, the results can be compared to “a double-edged sword.” Not going for the screening lowers the possibility of overtreatment and over diagnosis. Early PSA screening may show and make a person concerned about a slow-growing cancerous tumor that poses no great risks now and in the near future. However, the tests assist in the diagnosis and discovery of prostate cancer.
The diagnosis is done through a blood test and normally tests the levels of PSA (prostate specific antigen) protein in the blood; but a person can have high levels of the specific protein because of other reasons and not cancer. Records indicate that the rate of PSA screening is always coming down. In 2008 it was 41%, 2010 was 38 percent, and 2013 was 35%. The rate is expected to go down this year yet the number of people who endup getting cancer of the prostate is always raising.
In short, the report from the panel of researchers encourages people to give less attention to early PSA screening especially if they are below 55 years. This is what has led to the decline of the screening and is likely to save then from other adverse effects. However, the test has both the good and the not-so-good, and the best way forward is more research or finding a better alternative.